Photo: NHL on Calgary Flames Site
On the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals chose forward Haakon Hänelt in the fifth round (#151th pick overall). Hänelt, who was born in Berlin, Germany on June 1, 2003, played with Eisbären (Polar Bears) Berlin in the Deutsch Elite League (DEL).
This was Hänelt first year at the highest level in the German league, although he has played in their youth leagues. Hänelt has played both center and wing and has even played defense during his career.
Hanelt played in 22 games with Eisbären last season, and scored one goal. Prior to that, he played three seasons with the Red Bull Hockey Academy in Austria. Before that, he played with the Eisbären Junior team.
Photo: NHL.com Deutschland
Hänelt spoke before the recent NHL Draft in an interview recorded on the Eisbaren website, “My first professional season could have been worse.”
“To be drawn in the draft is my childhood dream, as it is probably of every young player. I hope for the best. Let’s see if it works. The selection of talent from the best ice hockey league in the world is not a big issue during the ongoing summer training with teammates — our full focus is on training..”
“To be drafted at all would be a great thing. I’ve spoken to quite a few teams, with Arizona and Montréal even several times. But I’ll let everything come my way.” He reported that the questions from team’s ranged from assessing himself as a player, to family matters, and other ice hockey topics. He also reported that some questions were trickier “because they wanted to test my personality.”
Hänelt was selected #25 in the 2021 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) import draft. The selecting team was Gatineau Olympique in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He had been contacted by Gatineau, but his original plan was to talk to the team who drafted him [the Capitals] and also with the management of Eisbären on the next step to take in his hockey career.
Hänelt played on the fourth line for Eisbären, a team of older men, and would likely be better served by playing in Canadian junior hockey with players his own age. [Update: Hänelt has committed to playing with Gatineau Olympique for the 2021-22 season].
While Hänelt had a decent first season, he is not content to rest on his laurels, especially since he missed time with injuries. “Unfortunately, I also had a bit of bad luck with injuries, as I couldn’t play in the U18 World Cup. I’ve learned a lot from my team-mates and hope to be able to take that with me into the next few seasons. But there is always room for improvement. For example, I have to convert the chances in front of the goal even faster, my scoring could have been better.”
He then talked about the goal he scored in a 5-1 win his team had earned in Bremerhaven. “The puck has been given a place of honor. it hangs on the wall in my room.”
Hänelt ended up watching the NHL draft with his roommate, Florian Elias. They are both in Füssen at the Under 20 Summer Challenge tournament where they are representing Germany for DEB (Deutscher Eishockey-Bund which translates to Deutche Ice Hockey Federation).
Elias, who plays with Adler Mannheim, was also eligible for the NHL Draft. Participating in that tournament which takes place from July 29-31 will be Germany, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Denmark.
Hänelt spoke after the draft in a post draft interview recorded on the Eisbaren website, “A dream has come true. The Washington Capitals are a great organization and I am incredibly proud that they picked me. But there is still a lot of work to do. Many thanks to my family, coach and teammates for their support. Without them it would not have been possible. ”
He also discussed one of his other immediate term goals, which is to pass his driver’s license test and get a driver’s license. “Unfortunately, I had to cancel two exam dates because of ice hockey commitments. The next possible date is unfortunately in mid-August. Until then, you can still walk the streets of Berlin with peace of mind.”
A report on the NHL Calgary Flames website on him read as follows, “Despite being one of the younger players in this year’s draft class, the Berlin-born forward plays a mature, defensively reliable game that allowed him to play pro as a 17-year-old last season. His 200-foot game is sound, he is poised under pressure, has excellent vision and possesses a high hockey IQ – attributes that will serve him well as he continues to develop at the pro level. While he had limited minutes during his first season with Eisbären Berlin, he has shown offensive upside throughout his junior career with the Red Bull Academy and his time with the German national team at the U16 through U18 levels.”
Hänelt is the second member of the Eisbaren team to get drafted into the NHL. The first was Lukas Reichel. Other German players to be drafted in 2021 include: Defenseman Luca Munzenberger (3rd round / 90th position / Edmonton Oilers) and Goaltender Nikita Quapp (6th round / 187th position / Carolina Hurricanes).
By Diane Doyle
Eisbaeren Germany News: Story on Haakon Haenelt Prior to 2021 Draft
Eisbaeren Germany News: Haakon Haenelt Drafted By Washington
NHL.Com/Calgary Flames: Potential Late Round Gems — Forwards
Capitals Prospect Haakon Hanelt Commits To Playing In QMJHL This Season
The Capitals Select Forward Haakon Hanelt In the 5th Round Of The 2021 NHL Entry Draft
Sportschau Germany: Haenelt Drafted By Washington Capitals
Elite Prospects Profile on Haakon Hanelt
Ledroit: Hockey Junior Olympiques: Hanelt Commits with Olympiques
Olympiques de Gatineau Site